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March 8, 2024

On International Women’s Day, ActionAid calls for an end to the catastrophic situation faced by women in Gaza and the West Bank amidst the ongoing crisis in the region, where they have been all but abandoned by the international community. The indiscriminate Israeli bombing campaign in Gaza has not only claimed the lives of more than 8,400 and injured more than 6,300 women to date, but has also left countless women displaced, their homes reduced to rubble, and their families torn apart. Amidst the chaos, women are just trying to survive in a world where access to healthcare, education, and even sanitary products is a luxury they can scarcely afford.  

Raghad, a psychologist and social worker supporting women who have been displaced, says:

“All women [here] are [considered to have experienced] abuse from an economic point of view, a physical point of view, a psychological point of view, and a social point of view…There are many women now who have lost their husbands because of the war…There are many women who were nine months pregnant and gave birth without their husband there because they are missing. This caused women to suffer from severe depression, psychological stress, sadness, and feelings of loss, something [which], in psychology, [is known] as post-traumatic stress disorder. Most children also suffer from sadness, hyperactivity, [memory loss], they forget a lot, they say unkind words. We also see bedwetting, nail-biting and nightmares.” 

Limited access to essential services, including healthcare and education, is worsening the already appalling conditions faced by women and girls in Gaza. There are currently over 600,000 women and girls in Gaza who are menstruating, with some having to resort to cutting up scraps of refugee tents in place of sanitary products. According to UNOCHA, the risk of death from starvation in Gaza is reportedly growing, disproportionately affecting children and pregnant women. This is further exacerbated by inadequate water, sanitation, and health services, the severing of power and fuel supplies, and the decimation of food production and agriculture.   

Susan is a midwife, supporting displaced women in Gaza to give birth and providing antenatal and postnatal care. She is currently working in a school being used as a shelter for displaced women and children, where she is looking after 100 pregnant women and 20 women who have just given birth. She says: 

“We are doing emergency work, and hospitals are prioritizing emergencies which require immediate attention, such as cases where women are experiencing bleeding or other complications. We follow up with women by providing advice and guidance, and we focus on the importance of breastfeeding.”  

 The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that ten infants have died because of malnutrition and dehydration, including two at Shifa Hospital on February 28 and four at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza on 29 February. A rise in anemia among pregnant women was also reported at Project HOPE’s clinic in Deir al Balah, where some 21 percent of 416 pregnant women who visited the clinic between February 5th and 24th showed signs of malnutrition “caused by the lack of protein, iron, and other micronutrients, which can increase the risk of a life-threatening postpartum hemorrhage, premature births, and low birth weight. ”  

But the plight of Palestinian women extends beyond the besieged enclave of Gaza. In the West Bank, women in communities like Jenin refugee camp endure a daily onslaught of violence and oppression from the Israeli Forces, their lives reduced to a perpetual state of fear and uncertainty.  

Noor*, who lives in the Jenin refugee camp, describes her daily life:

“Today, women are frustrated, afraid, and stressed. Especially those who lost family members; husbands, children, and mothers. This has made them live in a constant state of stress, worry, and instability. Women in the camp today are playing a major role to protect their families and themselves in the absence of international protection for refugees, be it in Jenin camp, or in any other part of Palestine. Mothers today are trying to control their anger, to conceal their sadness and feelings of oppression and injustice, in order to have a small bit of hope, a space for their children to have a relatively stable and safe life.”  

Despite these insurmountable challenges, Palestinian women defiantly showcase unwavering resilience and solidarity. From consoling the grieving to forging essential aid networks for survival and fiercely championing the rights of women and girls amidst occupation and war, they navigate a landscape of destruction with unparalleled courage and resolve. But they should not have to do this alone, nor should they be in this position at all.  

Buthaina, director of Wefaq, ActionAid Palestine’s partner in Gaza, describes the catastrophic conditions in Gaza and the support they have provided to support communities: 

“At the beginning of the war, through our work, with the support of ActionAid, we helped [provide] food and sanitary and hygiene products, in the very beginning of the war and before the majority of the people were displaced from the north from Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia, along with Central Gaza, to Rafah… We still stand, even after all the sad and terrible events.”  

But as ActionAid, we know that the limited but important pieces of aid and support we can deliver are a drop in the ocean compared to the urgent, life-saving assistance needed for the over 1.7 million people in Gaza who have been displaced from their homes. An immediate and permanent ceasefire is desperately needed to stop the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Gaza and deliver humanitarian assistance at the scale required to meet the catastrophic situation on the ground.  

Meanwhile, across the globe, millions of women are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity and strength with women in Palestine. From attending protests to writing to their representatives to signing petitions and donating in support, women have been driving forward the movement for justice and accountability all over the world.    

Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine, said:

“On this International Women’s Day, it is imperative that the international community opens its eyes to the unspeakable suffering endured by women and girls in Gaza. From Bisan to Maissa and thousands of others, they are the ones who must put their shattered communities back together while the world remains silent. Abandoned by those who claim to uphold human rights, these women and girls are the backbone of their communities, holding them together in the midst of chaos.  

It is high time for the international community and power holders to acknowledge its abject failure in protecting the most vulnerable and to take immediate action to halt the war and safeguard the lives of women and girls in Gaza. The call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire cannot wait any longer.” 


For media requests, please email or call 202-731-9593. 

Spokespeople are available: 

  • Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA 
  • Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine 

About ActionAid    

ActionAid is a global federation working withmore than 41 million people living in more than 71 of the world’s poorest countries.We want to see a just, fair, and sustainable world, in which everybody enjoys the right to a life of dignity, and freedom from poverty and oppression. We work to achieve social justice and gender equality and to eradicate poverty.